Document Type

Graduate Syllabus


Spring 2019



Course Number

DIPL 6198

Course Description

This course is designed to help answer a fundamental question for students of American foreign policy: Should the United States promote human rights around the world, or should it pursue its own strategic and domestic corporate interests, without regard to the promotion of democracy or human rights? If the former-if the U.S. is to be, in Gideon Rose's words, both "country and cause," to what extent should promotion of human rights and the pursuit of justice be prioritized in American foreign policy? Another way of asking this question might be this: Is the United States, as a global leader or hegemon, "exceptional" in how it pursues its interests around the world? Should the United States be exceptional in this regard?

The spring of 2019 is an excellent, and many would argue, urgent time to consider these questions. The current occupant of the White House seems to have a starkly different view about American exceptionalism than his predecessors. If asked directly whether the United States should pursue moral concerns in its foreign policy, it seems likely that Donald Trump would answer "no." His signature foreign policy, "America First," pushes human rights almost completely off the agenda. One purpose of this seminar is to explore the roots, efficacy, and, ultimately, wisdom of this position. The concept we will use to better understand the role human rights plays in U.S. foreign policy will be American Exceptionalism. What is exceptional about the United States? Anything? Where does this notion come from? Is it a good or bad thing to be exceptional? Should human rights play a role in U.S. foreign policy because America is "exceptional"? Should it play a guiding role in every country's foreign policy? Can the promotion of human rights standards be incorporated into U.S. foreign policy without compromising American security and economic interests around the world? Who should take the lead in promoting human rights in American foreign policy: the president and his ( or someday her) administration? Congress? NGOs?